New RCGP position statement on quality

Professor Kamila Hawthorne, Vice Chair (Professional Development), Royal College of General Practitioners

All GPs strive to provide the best possible care for patients, families and communities. They take responsibility for the care they provide to patients, and for their clinical and professional non-clinical practice. However, general practice in the UK is in crisis – an ever-increasing workload, bureaucracy, an aging population with complex multi-system needs, with static or even decreasing numbers of GPs to provide care.

It has been some years since the RCGP last put out a clear position statement on 'quality in general practice'. We all think we know what it should be, but what does it look like in today’s climate of workload and pressure?

Improving the quality of general practice care for patients has always been at the heart of the College's mission. The Professional Development and Quality Programme Board, with much input from many members of RCGP Council from across the UK have put together this latest Quality Position Statement, defining  what 'quality' should look like in today's general practice and emphasising that in the real world of today, high quality care is dependent on adequate resources, and a supported, healthy and valued professional workforce. The Position Statement also explains that the RCGP wants to move from a standards-based assurance approach that is externally applied, to a model that emphasises the importance of continuous quality improvement.

The Position Statement [PDF] succinctly defines 'quality in general practice' today, both at individual and practice levels, and 'at scale'. It divides this into a focus on improving the experience of care for patients, carers and families, demonstrating clinical competence, taking responsibility for professional standards in patient care, and for the needs of the broader community and for primary care.

Some elements of quality in general practice are measurable, but others are not so easy to measure – for example, how a GP manages uncertainty or risk. But they still need to be counted and valued. The RCGP's Professional Development and Quality Programme Board is now moving to link the Quality Position Statement with its Quality Improvement Toolkit, searching for real case examples of quality in general practice that can be both mapped to the Position Statement and linked to the Toolkit. Using the Position Statement as a living document, to guide Quality Improvement is vital, and the RCGP hopes it will encourage and guide GPs to keep thinking about the quality of care they so plentifully give to their patients.


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